United We Stand

For the past few days, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the events that have unfolded this past weekend, with the shooting of Christina Grimmie at a post-show autograph signing, and with the massacre at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando where 50 people were killed and another 50 were injured.

And honestly, I don’t even know what’s happening in the world anymore.

Rumors abound that Christina was shot by an ex-boyfriend. I can’t begin to describe how shitty that is of him, regardless of whatever motive seemed logical to him and him alone at the time. Some people break up and just go their separate ways. Clearly, some guys break up and decide later on to murder their ex-lover. It’s tragic.

Like most people, I woke up Sunday morning and was instantly heartbroken as I scrolled through Twitter. The #PrayForOrlando hashtags were common, and naturally curious, it took me minutes to find out what it was about. And in many ways, I wish I hadn’t. More importantly, I wish it hadn’t happened.

According to the gunman’s father, he saw two men kissing in Miami, which inspired him to take an assault rifle into a gay nightclub and start killing people. These people, at least from what I’ve seen reported (and little to my own personal doubt), did not provoke him in any way. It’s a nightclub. They came to drink. To have fun. To have a good time. As people. As humans. And one person decided that wasn’t enough. And through his actions, it set a record as the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States.

The negative reactions were, of course, strewn throughout the Internet. Some people praised this man for ‘killing off the fags,’ and a few in that category, through the same power of the Internet, lost their jobs or were expelled from school for their words (case in point: this). Other people noted that if these people hadn’t “flaunted their gayness” in the man’s face, they would’ve still been alive, minus the fact that a) it’s a gay nightclub, and b) he came with an assault rifle, so clearly he came with a purpose. Some have highlighted the fact that he’s gay, in an effort to paint us as a destructive, violent part of society who need to be eradicated (which is something this anti-gay pastor believes).

This is undoubtedly an attack on the LGBT community, and the fact it happened within the month of June, a month we continually celebrate our achievements, only doubles the pain. Investigators who entered the club afterward had to listen to the sound of dozens of cell phones going off. Coming from those who were dead. Calls, coming from boyfriends. Friends. Relatives. Co-workers. People who would never get to speak, hear, or see them ever again.

Sunday was, for the most part, a blur for me. Just a jumble of emotions, intermixed with sitting in the office at my apartment complex for five hours, answering the occasional phone call, checking for a package or two, sending out an email here and there. My life instantly seemed much, much less significant to what was occurring elsewhere, and what other families were now going through.

I’ve seen my fair share of comments from people moaning about how LGBT people aren’t discriminated against, about how we don’t need a month of pride, or pride festivals and parades, about how there should be a straight pride, and the list goes on from there. This event proved exactly why we have pride events in the first place: Because we are collectively amongst a variety of other minority groups that are at risk of public humiliation, discrimination, bigotry, hatred, and, at its worst, physical violence.

Why? Because of who we are and who we love.

It continually boggles my mind how wrapped up some people get in the lives of others. A recent Facebook video showed a mom breastfeeding in a Target store and being subjected to a slew of verbal assaults from a man, until a group of women and Target employees defended her. When the landmark same-sex ruling was handed down last year in June, many people said it would be the end of marriage, and ruin the ‘sanctity’ of it. Here’s a classic lesson from my childhood: If someone else is happy, LET THEM BE HAPPY. This country was built on the principle of the American Dream, for people to live the lives they want to live, permitted they follow the rules of society. There is, and should never be, a rule barring you from marrying who you want to marry, from dating who you want to date, from doing anything in your life that will bring you happiness. What a complete stranger does with their life should never be any concern of yours, because, plot twist, heterosexual couples are still able to marry and have kids. Nothing has changed. At all. The world hasn’t ended. People need to grow up and worry about their own happiness and not try to destroy the happiness of someone else.

So far in 2016, there have been 139 shootings. No, not all of them are on as wide of a scale as what happened in Orlando, nor are they as widely reported. We are currently 167 days into the year, which means 28 of those days have gone without any reports of gun violence, which is a tragic fact. I will never, ever understand how this man came to be in possession of an assault rifle, and for something that operates so quickly and can take out so many lives in a very small amount of time, no single person should have access to a gun of that nature. The second amendment is a valuable one, and people should protect themselves at all costs, but certainly not with a weapon like that.

And yet, as with Aurora, Colorado, and Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook, and San Bernardino, and many others, we take time to scratch our heads and question why these things continually happen, and then moments later we’re on to some other big topic. I truly believe that regardless of what side you’re on, whether you’re advocating for deeper mental health insights or better background checks or stricter gun control and regulation, better education or whatever else, that something needs to happen. As a society, we cannot continue the same ritual, of offering up our thoughts and prayers and then simultaneously turn around days later and move on to something else. If we really want these things to stop happening, or to happen much, much less often, we actually need to take action in some effective form.

If there is any silver lining to this, it’s the fact that the issue of, for the most part, gun control has landed in the hands of the LGBT community, a network of individuals that comprise a very decent portion of society throughout the country. Those among us fought hard to win the right to same-sex marriage, and there’s little doubt in my mind that, through our actions, something can finally be done to address this. We do not need prayers, or well-wishes, or thoughts. We need action, because that alone speakers stronger than words.

But the bigger silver lining is how much unity came across social media, especially for gay Twitter. In a virtual realm that is often rampant with shade and hatred toward one another, it was incredibly refreshing to see virtually every single person tweeting some of the same things, making some of the same comments as others, interacting with each other, virtually supporting one another. And that is what we need. This shooting is the exact reason we need to STOP hating those that are in our own community. The ‘no fat, no masc, no fem, no black, no asian’ tag line has run its course. We absolutely cannot turn our back on one another. We need to be unified.

I came out two years ago in March, and I know for sure that I’m not going back in. I’m not letting one act of violence dictate how I live my life, because how I live my life is my own business. I am not going anywhere. I am going to continue living my life exactly as I’ve lived it. At a time when many of the LGBT community are closeted, I know this is an extremely terrifying thing for them to bear witness to. But I also believe it is important to note that this is what it means to be a part of society. Women have faced this for decades, back when the wage gap was much deeper, back when they didn’t have the opportunity to vote. African-Americans have faced this for a century, back when slavery was a thing, back when police officers would use pressure hoses on them just for walking in the street or peacefully protesting, back when racism was much more strong and widespread than it is today (while still being a thing, it’s better than how things used to be in the south in cities like Birmingham). Every single time you step outside of your home, you become a part of society. You sacrifice your privacy, safety, and comfort for being out living your life, and this is one of the universal truths that binds us together as people, not just in America, but the world. Every time you step off your porch, you take a risk in what lies ahead for the day, but as with most things, really, what’s life without risk? Being closeted is not a bad thing, and it’s my sincere wish that anyone who is closeted will eventually be able to live their life freely.

This shooting has demonstrated to me the true power and spirit of the LGBT community. In a month where we should be celebrating who we are, this should give us all the more reason to take pride in that, because we are a part of a community of individuals who stand together, not just in a single month, but year after year. And that’s how it should be, and not just for this community. We should all be supportive of one another, and be there for each other when we really need it. We don’t have to love every single person on this Earth. That is next to impossible, because people come in a variety of shades and colors we may not agree with. But at the least, we should respect each other for our differences, and accept that we are after the same things in life: To be loved, to be happy, and to be free.

I hope this spirit never dies. I hope action actually happens. I hope less people are senselessly murdered. And I hope we continue to stand together, as people. As one united fabric in the minuscule stitch of the galaxy. Someday, if we keep fighting, maybe things might get better, but only if we’re willing to take the steps necessary to achieve it.

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